Iowa Football

Iowa football notes: The Hawkeyes' annual summer news blackout is over

With that, Ferentz announces comings and mostly goings

Iowa TE Noah Fant made the Big Ten’s bus wrap. This is from Monday in Chicago. (Marc Morehouse/The Gazette)
Iowa TE Noah Fant made the Big Ten’s bus wrap. This is from Monday in Chicago. (Marc Morehouse/The Gazette)

CHICAGO — Things accumulate during the annual Iowa football summer news blackout, so take a breath and dig in.

And of course, a lot of that is who is and who isn’t here.

— OL Spencer Williams, LB Kyle Taylor and RB Toks Akinribade have ended their careers and are on medicals. Their football careers at Iowa are over.

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Williams said on his Instagram account that he’s leaving for medical reasons. Taylor hasn’t had a lot of good health in his Iowa career. Akinribade had a surgery last December and hasn’t been back with the team since.

— LB Nate Wieland, RB Camron Harrell, CB Manny Rugamba, CB Cedric Boswell, DE Romeo McKnight and TE Jake Coons have departed the program.

What does this immediately do to scholarships?

“We’ve got a little room right now,” Ferentz said. “Like every year, we have a couple of guys we think are in prime position to earn those scholarships. We’ll see how the camp pans out, but we have a couple of guys who are in prime position. What we don’t use, we’ll carry over to recruiting.”

Possibilities to make that leap? Senior offensive tackle Dalton Ferguson, junior tight end Nate Wieting and maybe kicker Keith Duncan.

— On the flip side, running back Mekhi Sargent is on scholarship. And Ferentz is happy about that.

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Recruiting coordinator Kelvin Bell saw Sargent in Iowa Western’s postseason game and told Ferentz “he’s a Division I football player and could be a really good running back for us.”

Iowa didn’t have room in December or February. Coming out of spring, the running back numbers were thin. The departures of Akinribade and Harrell made the position a need and Iowa felt it needed Sargent.

“It made perfect sense,” Ferentz said. “He’s been in the program all summer. We think he can be a really good football player.”

Sargent was a full qualifier coming out of Key West (Fla.) High School. He has three years of eligibility. The 5-9, 200-pounder gained 1,449 yards and scored 14 TDs for the Reivers last season. He also earned juco all-American status. Last season in wide receiver Nick Easley, Iowa found out that juco all-American thing does translate. Easley led the Hawkeyes with 51 receptions.

— Junior OL Levi Paulsen still is working back from the injury he suffered in spring, but sophomore Cole Banwart has indeed started to take off, KF said.

On the first depth chart of the season released Monday, Banwart was listed as the starter.

“Levi still is working back from that,” Ferentz said, Paulsen is one of two Hawkeyes nursing an injury headed into camp, which begins the evening of Aug. 3. “We’re hoping he’ll be full speed in August. But Cole has done a nice job, his arrow is going up right now.”

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— Junior defensive tackle Brady Reiff will be suspended for the Northern Illinois game following his public intox arrest last weekend in Iowa City. A breathalyzer test showed Reiff’s blood alcohol content was .204.

— LB Aaron Mends (ACL) and defensive back Wes Dvorak (ACL) remain out and their 2018 returns are doubtful.

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— This season, true freshmen or any player looking to take a redshirt year can play up to four games.

Ferentz plans to use that fully and will keep the evaluations open all season. So, if a freshman isn’t ready in August, he can work his way up to playing in November.

Ferentz seems open to the creativity this could inject into rosters.

“I think it’s a really good thing and the most obvious benefactor would be at quarterback,” Ferentz said. “It allows you to do some things with a freshman quarterback. We’ve been in that position. You just never know how that’s going to play out.”

Either way, Ferentz said he’ll give first-year players a test drive early and the program will keep an open mind for players who ascend in practice during the season.

“It could be injury or attrition, but it also could be this guy is coming on, maybe he can help us here in the final few weeks,” Ferentz said.

This wasn’t position-specific, either. Ferentz sounded energized on the topic. It’s more players in the game.

“Anybody, if they can help us win, all for it,” Ferentz said.

— There’s a new kickoff rule in college football.

A fair catch on a kickoff received inside the 25-yard line will result in a touchback next season after a proposed rule change was approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel in April.

Last season, Iowa kicker Miguel Recinos showed great accuracy for hanging kicks up and forcing return teams to start their returns inside the 10. Now those kicks can be fair caught and instead of the ball being placed at the spot of the catch, it will be placed at the 25.

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Iowa was second in the Big Ten last season, allowing just 17.08 yards a kick return (best since 2014).

Ferentz prefaced this by saying there are a lot of variables, so there probably can’t be a fixed strategy.

“We had a good thing going,” Ferentz said. “I don’t want to assume that’s going to happen this year, but I’d be really happy. We had a good thing going last year.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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